Penguins Living Dangerous In The Falkland Islands

Grace Higgins | July 21st, 2020

There is a stretch of beach on the Falkland Islands which is covered in landmines, abandoned from the Falkland War. The minefield was created to kill or severely injured British soldiers, but after the war, the area was simply ignored completely and now it has become home to penguins. Due to the landmines, the area has essentially become a natural reserve, as humans dare not walk on the beach, penguins have taken over completely.

Thousands of honking Magellanic penguins can be found along the beach. Many huddle together in their penguin families, protecting burrows. Locally these penguins are called jackasses, as they screech their displeasure whenever seeing any humans. You can also find little clusters of gentoo penguins, living their lives as if the mines do not exist.

But they do! This is Yorke Bay just outside of the capital of the Falkland Islands in Stanley. A long time ago it was a leisure beach, but on the 2 April 1982, this is where the Argentine naval commandos landed and started their invasion. One of their immediate actions was to plant thousands of land mines across the entire countryside. The idea was to greatly slow down any British counter-attack. They wanted to be sure the British could not easily land on the beach and retake Stanley.

Luckily for the penguins, this is not a problem, they are so light that they do not trigger the landmines to explode. And behind the fenced-off areas, they are enjoying life, being shielded completely from the advances of humans. Due to the minefield, these penguins have enjoyed decades of life without any pollution from humans. And it seems they will get to enjoy this for centuries to come.

Falklands conservation groups say that to remove the mines will cause too much damage to the ecosystem at this point. This is because the only way to safely remove them is to dig them out completely and remove whole chunks of the earth. That being set the United Kingdom has signed the Ottawa Convention, which means by law they have to demine any territories in their control.

So they have spent millions of pounds employing demining experts such as Farai Beghede from Zimbabwe; who have been demining the countryside slowly but surely. They are still debating whether to move on to the Yorke Bay area, as this could potentially ruin a whole ecosystem for penguins.

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